Front Page    News     Features    Stories    Briefs    Event Scroll    Vox Populi    Calendar 

 
RehobothNow.com

Send in your news, photos, ideas:

info@rehobothnow.com

TWO REHOBOTH FARMS TO RECEIVE GRANTS FROM THE AGRICULTURAL

FOOD SAFETY IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM

(December 22, 2016)  The Baker-Polito Administration recently announced $200,000 in grants to 24 Massachusetts farms, including two in Rehoboth, to install practices that improve food safety within their operations.

   The Farmer’s Garden, and Souza Family Farm in Rehoboth will each receive grants from the Agricultural Food Safety Improvement Program (AFSIP) to address food safety upgrades on their farms enabling the operations to meet buyer demands, increase consumption of local food, as well as protect public health by reducing food safety risks.

   The Farmer’s Garden was awarded $20,000 for a washing and packing facility, while the Souza Family Farm was awarded $7,522 for bins, refrigeration and shading.

     “Upgrading existing farm infrastructure is important for the Commonwealth’s agricultural businesses to maintain high quality, locally produced products in a safe, sustainable way,” said Governor Charlie Baker.  “Our administration is committed to ensuring Massachusetts famers have the tools they need to adopt the best food safety practices for the benefits of all consumers.”

     According to State Representative Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk) who represents Rehoboth, “The promotion of good food safety practices is critical for our farms in their efforts to build wholesaler and consumer confidence.” He added, “I’m grateful to the Baker-Polito Administration for their leadership in this ever-growing sector of agriculture.  MDAR’s efforts to support the development of farm food safety infrastructure allow our farms to build that confidence, access greater wholesale opportunities, and increase their farms’ viability.”

   “It’s exciting to see that Rehoboth’s Souza Family Farm and The Farmer’s Garden would be receiving this grant,” said State Senator Jim Timilty (D-Walpole). “Food Safety Operations are vital to our Commonwealth’s agricultural businesses and the growing popularity of locally grow food. I look forward to visiting these facilities in the new year to see these grants put to action.”

    By implementing eligible upgrades the farms will be able to protect public health, sustain public confidence in the food system, meet buyer requirements, and follow new regulations under the Federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

    This round of grant funding has a focus on assisting commercial oyster farmers with meeting the Department of Marine Fisheries and the Department of Public Health (DPH) Vibrio Control Program.  Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) is a human pathogen known to cause foodborne illnesses from the consumption of raw oysters.  In an effort to address these foodborne illnesses the Vp Control Plan requires strict harvesting controls for oysters. Examples of awards to aquaculture operations to help meet these requirements include commercial coolers, cold storage, and ice machines all working towards reducing the temperature of oysters at harvest and continued cooling of oysters thereafter.

    “Food safety practices are vital to ensuring our citizens have access to the fresh, local food that the Commonwealth’s local farmers are known for,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton.  “The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to supporting our local farms through the AFSIP grant program so that they are prepared to provide products grown, harvested and processed here in Massachusetts.”

     “Assisting farmers through both grants and technical assistance will help modernize their operations and continue to strengthen our local food supply and the agricultural industry,” said Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux.  “We are committed to the goal of ensuring food safety from farm to table.”DAR’s mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts.

    Through its four divisions – Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services – DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth’s agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture’s role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR’s website.


Made on a Mac

CONGRESSMAN JOE KENNEDY SHARES IMMIGRANT’S STORY WITH CONSTITUENTS

(February 1, 2017)  Last week, I toured a community health center in Worcester where I met a 42-year-old Muslim refugee from Baghdad. After three years in a Turkish refugee camp with his wife and children, he finally arrived in the United States late last year.

 
  He told me his story. About the four different times he wound up in the hospital for bombing-related injuries. About the time he and his wife were targeted and shot. About being forced to watch the murder of his own brother and about the countless other family members who have since vanished.

    In Iraq, he was a musician. Thanks to a doctor at this health center, he was able to secure a trumpet here in the United States.  So after telling me his story, he picked up his beloved instrument and began to play our national anthem with tears streaming down his face – because this proud and kind country had opened its doors and let him in.

    A few hours later, our new President slammed those doors shut on refugees like this man with the simple stroke of his pen. Not to mention many immigrants and even legal residents. This morning, I stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and shared his story with my colleagues to demand that the President reconsider his disgraceful, unpatriotic executive order.

    You can watch my speech on YouTube, and I hope you will share it with your friends and family members.


Congressman Joseph Kennedy, III represented Rehoboth in the United States House of Representatives

 

JOINT LETTER FROM MASSACHUSETTS HEADS OF CHURCHES

“Our Increased Compassion, Not Our Hardened Hearts”

(February 1, 2017)  We speak together, as Church leaders in Massachusetts, on the injurious Executive Action restricting refugees, issued on Friday January 27, 2017 entitled, "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States."

   Our Christian tradition is clear. Deuteronomy 10:19 commands, "You shall also love the foreigner, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt."  The Holy Family was forced to flee the violence of their homeland (Matthew 2). Our Savior was a migrant. We hear Jesus Christ declare in Matthew 25 that His followers will be judged if we do not welcome the stranger. We stand under that judgment today.

   We believe in the aspirations of our nation, a place where all people long to live in safety. We remember with horror our nation's decision in 1939 to refuse the refugees on the MS St. Louis, a ship of German Jews, condemning many to death. Refugees invite our increased compassion, not our hardened hearts.

  We echo the words of Bishop Joe Vasquez of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

   "We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion. This includes Christians, as well as Yazidis and Shia Muslims from Syria, Rohingyas from Burma, and other religious minorities. However, we need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home, and country."

   We grieve this decision to limit refugees, as it will cause further suffering, not just to our fellow Christians escaping persecution, but all refugees fleeing violence.

   As Christians we try to live our lives in accordance with Jesus' Great Commandment - to love our neighbors as ourselves. We want safe homes, the freedom to worship, stable governments, and opportunities to thrive. Refugees desire the same. Our nation is founded on this welcome. We must make sure that we do not allow fear to overwhelm us, crowd out our compassion, or fundamentally change our character.

   Therefore, we pledge our voices and our churches' active support to resettle refugees in Massachusetts. We call on elected leaders, including President Trump, to reconsider the Executive Action to limit refugee resettlement. We have and will continue to welcome and support refugees. Our churches are in every single city and town of Massachusetts.  And, we ask our churches to reach out in love and Christian hospitality to the refugees living near them. We encourage our churches to show compassion and support to those who have fled hardship and violence.


Signed: The Rev. Fr. Arakel Aljalian, Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America; The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, Minister and President, Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ; Mr. Anthony Barsamian, President, Massachusetts Council of Churches;  Reverend Howard K. Burgoyne, Superintendent, East Coast Conference, Evangelical Covenant Church; Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V. Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River; Reverend Dr. Harold M. Delhagen, Synod Leader/Executive for The Synod of the Northeast, Presbyterian Church (USA);  Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, Bishop, United Methodist Church, New England Conference;  Reverend Laura Everett, Executive Director, Massachusetts Council of Churches; The Rt. Rev. Douglas Fisher, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts; The Rt. Rev. Alan Gates, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts; The Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris, Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts; Bishop Jim Hazelwood, New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Reverend Jocelyn Hart Lovelace, Presiding Elder, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Boston-Hartford District; His Grace Bishop John, Diocese of Worcester and New England, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America; Reverend Mary Day Miller, Executive Minister, The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts; Noah Merrill, Secretary & Frederick Weiss, Presiding Clerk, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers);  Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts

DRRHS HOSTS EXCITING STEAMPOSIUM EVENT

(March 24, 2017) The Dighton Rehoboth Regional School District will host STEAMposium, an exciting new, free event to be held on Saturday, March 25 from 10 AM to 2 PM at Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School.

    Superintendent  Dr. Anthony Azar says the district is proud to offer this special event featuring hands-on activities, interactive exhibits, presentations, exploration and fun for all ages in the STEAM fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics

     Student STEAM projects and examples of lessons will be on display and students will be on-hand to describe their learning. These exhibits/demos will include the award-winning First Lego League Robotics teams, CO2 car racetrack, Green Team display, student art and design, STEAM challenges, forensic activities, building and magnets, earthquake and volcanoes, math games and a student created nature trail with Story Walk!

       This event is open to the public and community members are encouraged to attend. Snacks and lunch will be available for purchase throughout the event so plan to stay all day.

    In addition to the student exhibits, many community partners will participate, ready to engage in activities and discussions:


SMARTS Collaborative hosting a recyclable design challenge space


MA Audubon from the Oak Knoll property with a naturalist and artifacts


University of MA-Dartmouth Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship bringing their electric motorcycles and underwater ROVs robots and drone engines


Rehoboth Rescue Team with their ambulance and power lift stretcher, as well as a CPR game


Robotics Champions will demonstrate Ozobot/OzoBlocky and have 3D design demos


TRANE will highlight energy sources and display solar panels, real-time building monitoring and will give tours of the new DRRHS biomass boiler


Bristol Community College will host multiple areas including robotics, coding biotech/genetics and medical laboratory science


Ocean Spray will offer students a chance to create a ‘bog in a cup’


NOAA/National Weather Service has interactive weather gauges and a video


Massasoit Community College will offer multiple displays


For more information about the STEAMposium, contact Kerri Anne Quinlan-Zhou, kquinlan-zhou@drregional.org, 508-252-5000, ext 5146. For additional information about the program contact Karen Rose, DRRSD STEAM Specialist krose@drregional.org.

 

PROGRESS REPORT ON IMPROVEMENTS TO

GLADYS L. HURRELL SENIOR CENTER

Update submitted by the Rehoboth Council on Aging

(April 19, 2017) Last year at May town meeting, Rehoboth voters approved two capital projects for the Gladys L. Hurrell Senior Center.  These were a replacement heating system boiler and a self-contained (aka “whole house”) generator to provide full power to the building in the event of a power outage. Here is an update on the status of those projects, plus follow-up information on two other older projects. (photos by Norm Spring)


Replacement Heating System Boiler

The original boiler at the senior center was in need of frequent and expensive repairs and subject to unexpected shut-downs in cold weather. The replacement system is now in operation and is much less trouble, and much more efficient than the old boiler.  It is a “condenser boiler” which means it recovers heat that would otherwise go up the chimney. 

    In fact, the exhaust gas is so cool that it leaves the building in two PVC plastic pipes located in the back wall of the building.  The other two plastic pipes are there to supply input air to the boiler.  This new system will save the town money in greatly reduced maintenance and fuel costs, as well as providing reliable heat and hot water. 

    Although funding for the boiler was originally through town meeting, Representative Steven Howitt and Senator James Timilty worked diligently to secure state funding of $50,000 for this project, allowing the original funds to be returned to the town.  We thank them for this hard work!

Self Contained “Whole House” Generator

The installation of a self contained, 100 KW, 3 phase generator was completed in early February 2017.  It is located in the “corral” behind the building on a concrete pad that was part of the installation.  This generator will allow the senior center to be used as a warming center in the event of a winter power failure.  Of course, it would become a cooling center in the event of a summer power failure (think hurricane).   

     To assure it is always ready to run, the generator will start itself once/week, and run for about 20 minutes while performing an internal diagnostic check. This keeps the battery charged, fuel lines clear, and assures the generator can come on line with minimum disruption.


Two Older Projects: Replace/Relocate Freezer and Refrigerator Compressors

In late spring of 2015, students from Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical High School installed a new compressor to serve the walk-in freezer at the senior center.  The original compressor had been problematic for years, leaving the freezer unusable. 

    As part of this project, the new compressor was located in what was originally planned to be a loading dock at the side of the building, but never used. This allowed the compressor to be placed close to the building for easier installation and maintenance. 

    BP students also fabricated an aluminum stand for the unit to keep it off of the ground and out of winter snow. In the spring of 2016, BP students returned to relocate the compressor for the refrigerator at the senior center.  This moved the second compressor next to the first one, again, on a stand built by the students. 

    Both projects were funded internally by the senior center and so required no taxpayer dollars to complete. Also, the move of these two compressors freed up space behind the building that was then used for the mounting pad for the generator mentioned earlier.  This allowed the generator to be located in the best position for installation and maintenance.  Finally, having a working freezer has allowed the senior center to accept food donations from local stores that previously could not be accepted. 

OP-ED:  VISITING NURSE AGENCY URGES SUPPORT FOR “ENOUGH PAY TO STAY”

by Kathy Trier, Executive Director and CEO, Community VNA

(April 26, 2017) Picture a widowed woman in her mid-80s. She needs help daily with bathing, dressing and toileting. But she has one more problem:  she has been told that there are no workers available to come into her home to fill all the hours of care she needs.

    This scenario is happening more and more across the Commonwealth and right here in greater Attleboro. The recruitment and retention of home care aides and home health aides poses a real threat to the independence of many of our older neighbors. The image of a low-wage/high-turnover job makes it hard to find and keep home care workers. The fact is that we must do better if we are to keep up with our fastest growing demographic—those over the age of 60. We must give these essential home care workers "enough pay to stay."  

   Representative Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke) has filed an important elder home care workforce amendment to the House of Representatives’ budget that will soon be up for floor debate in the House. Rep. Vega’s amendment was supported by a workforce coalition of three major elder groups in the state: Mass Home Care, the Home Care Aide Council of Massachusetts, and the Home Care Alliance.

    The amendment would provide immediate rate relief to support the wages and benefits earned by the following frontline home care workers:  Homemakers/Personal Care Homemakers (wage and benefit increase of $1.43 per hour) and Home Health Aides (wage and benefit increase of $.72 per hour).

    Long term services and supports providers, such as Community VNA, are facing unprecedented challenges to recruit and retain the highly trained workforce needed to provide quality care to clients in the community.   

     Homemakers and Home Health Aides are among the lowest paid workers in Massachusetts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for a Homemaker is $13.05 and the average wage for a Home Health Aide is $13.78 an hour.

    Massachusetts has a proud tradition of committing to community based care and that commitment is both good social policy, and sound fiscal policy. Working with the home care community has resulted in a 37% drop in the number of nursing home patient days paid for by the state Medicaid program between FY 2000 and FY 2016.

    While these efforts to “rebalance” where citizens receive long term care have been successful, they have not been met with the necessary reinvestments in the community workforce. The Vega amendment is a needed step to reinvest some of those savings in the workforce who are making it possible to stay home with help.


About Community VNA
Community VNA has been dedicated to enhancing health, wellness and quality of life for more than 100 years, providing a range of services, including:  Home Health Care, Hospice Care, Palliative Care, Private Care, Adult Day Health Care, Alzheimer’s Assistance Program, as well as Lifeline services and annual Elder Dental Clinics.  Community VNA was awarded 2016 Home Care Elite Status (ranked among the top 25% of home health care agencies nationwide) marking the sixth year for this recognition.  Community VNA serves area communities including Rehoboth. (photo credit: Jen Osojnicki)

OH, DEAR, IT’S A BABY DEER!

Advisory from MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife

(May 26, 2017) Recent reports of people finding fawns (newborn deer) they believe to be abandoned are prompting MassWildlife biologists to remind everyone: "If you care, leave them there."

    From mid-May through June, does (female deer) give birth to thousands of fawns in Massachusetts. During this time, well-intentioned people contact MassWildife wanting to help a fawn they found alone and think is "orphaned." Fawns are commonly found bedded in thick vegetation or grassy areas, even close to homes or near roadways.

    "It's completely normal for fawns to be left alone by does for 6-8 hours at a time," says David Stainbrook, MassWildlife Deer Biologist. "Fawns are safe because their spotted coats look like dappled sunlight on the forest floor and offer great camouflage from their colorblind predators. The best thing people can do to help a fawn is leave it alone."

   In its first weeks of life, a fawn's instinct is to remain motionless and let danger pass. Fawns view approaching humans as predators and freeze to prevent detection. Don't assume that a fawn seen in the same place for several days is abandoned. Does visit their fawns for nursing very infrequently, an adaptation that helps fawns avoid predators.

   All young fawns appear skinny and may look awkward as they are learning to walk, but it's not an indication they are starving or injured. Once old enough to outrun predators (about 6 weeks), fawns will spend more time with the doe. 


Found a Fawn?

  1. Don't touch it or pick it up: Young fawns remain bedded alone for most of the day and night. The doe is probably feeding or bedded nearby. A sibling (twin fawn) may also be hiding nearby. If you linger, fawns may try to follow you and your presence may prevent the doe from returning to nurse. 

  2. If the fawn is crying: Walk far away! Fawn bleats sound like crying. Fawns bleat if they are alarmed or trying to locate their mother. The doe may bleat to the fawn, but will not approach if people are nearby.  

  3. If you've taken a fawn from the wild: Immediately return the fawn to the place you found it in safe cover and leave the area. A fawn's best chance of survival is when it is cared for by its mother. Does will not abandon a fawn handled by humans even 2 to 5 days after removal from the wild. 

  4. "Rescuing" fawns is illegal: Taking a fawn out of the wild is essentially "fawn-napping." Never feed a fawn; their stomachs are sensitive and the food or milk you give can be harmful. If the fawn is truly orphaned (dead lactating doe hit by car nearby), contact MassWildlife for advice before taking any action.


Misconceptions About Fawns

Each spring, MassWildlife receives reports from well-intentioned people who want to help a fawn that they found alone and thought was orphaned. However, it’s completely NORMAL for fawns to be left alone by their mother. It is the best thing the mother can do to protect her fawn. She is likely nearby watching you, but you probably won’t see her. The best thing YOU can do to help a fawn is to leave it alone. Enjoy the experience of nature, take a picture, but leave it there.

    It’s normal for a fawn to be very still and appear unresponsive.  Fawns view humans as predators and will drop their heads and freeze to not be detected.  They don’t typically get up and run until they are older.  It’s normal for a fawn to bleat in a way that sounds like crying when they are disturbed or trying to locate their mother.  The mother will also vocalize with the fawn, but will not come close if you are nearby.  It’s normal for a fawn to be alone for most of the day and night.  The mother will return several times to nurse, but limits her time with the fawn to reduce predation risk.  All fawns appear skinny, but this is not an indication they are starving or abandoned. Never feed a fawn because their stomachs are sensitive and food or milk can be very harmful to them.

    

 

MASS ACCESS TESTIFIES IN SUPPORT OF COMMUNITY ACCESS TELEVISION

(June 1, 2017) MassAccess, the nonprofit trade organization representing community media stations throughout Massachusetts, testified today in support of their legislation, ‘An Act to Support Community Access Television,’ filed by Senator John Keenan and Representative Ruth Balser. The Bill seeks to allow community media stations access to Electronic Programming Guides and channel signal quality that is comparable to local broadcast stations - now and in the future.

    Local cable television channels, often called “PEG channels” to correspond with the mission of public, educational or government access, provide a valuable public service to the community. Passage of the Bill would require cable companies to allow for broadcast of PEG channels in HD format and inclusion of programming in viewers’ electronic guides. These two changes would allow for PEG channels to be on par with most other offerings in cable television, and allow for greater access for viewers.

    “These stations provide a public service to Massachusetts residents,” said William Nay, General Manager, MashpeeTV, and MassAccess President. “The refusal to offer local channels in HD and access to the programming guide discriminates against cable subscribers in Massachusetts and hinders the independent voices in our communities by denying equal access to local stations.”

    Massachusetts residents account for only 2% of the cable subscribers in the country, but accounts for 16% of all the community media stations in the country. There are over 200 local access cable TV centers in Massachusetts, the highest concentration of media centers in the country. Local Access TV is the last hyper-local outlet for citizens, providing access to municipal meetings and providing transparency in local government. Channels provide local notices and information for citizens and residents. Additionally, individual centers provide educational and media literacy training, while serving as community hubs and centers and a training ground for students who want to pursue careers in TV and film.

    “In a world where media production has become global, the community media center has stayed true to its local roots…all while continuing to embrace emerging technology. This is what community media centers do,” said Melinda Garfield, Executive Director, Westwood Media Center and MassAccess Vice President. “But, to stay relevant and accessible, stations need the same consideration and treatment as other cable offerings.”

    The bill was previously heard by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy in November 2015, and given a “study order” in April 2016. Language relevant to the Bill was included in both the House and Senate versions of the Economic Development bill last year, but was omitted from the final version put forward.


About MassAccess

Massachusetts Community Media, Inc. (MassAccess) is a non-profit, 501(c)(6), [membership-based], advocacy agency, guided by a volunteer board of community media professionals. Our goal is to ensure the future vitality of Massachusetts based community media centers by developing educational workshops, monitoring legislation, utilizing technology to inform and enhance community media centers, as well as acting as government liaisons to inform supporters across Massachusetts regarding the current political landscape in regards to media.

LOCAL WWII VETERAN AND SON PARTICIPATE IN HONOR FLIGHT NEW ENGLAND FOR VISIT TO WASHINGTON, DC

(June 21, 2017) In late April, Rehoboth residents Earl Goff, Jr. and his son Earl Goff, III were able to participate in an Honor Flight New England trip to the Washington, DC area to visit World War
II memorials and other monuments in the national’s capital.

    A veteran of World War II, the elder Goff served as First Class Season in the United States Navy. He, along with other veterans of WWII and the Korean War, were accompanied by their guardians on the special journey which began with a Massachusetts State Police escort to Logan International Airport in Boston.  They were greeted by over a hundred well-wishers that thanked them for their military service.

     After arriving in Baltimore to another police escort and  the same enthusiastic reception, the veterans were able to tour the various military memorials in honor of World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force.They also visited Arlington National Cemetery to observe the Changing of the Guards at The Tomb of the Unknowns.

    Although the younger Goff had visited the memorials himself in the past, the Honor Flight trip was a very special day for his father.  Goff III said it was an privilege to serve as his father’s guardian to honor the men and women who sacrificed so much for their country so many years ago.

   At every point of the Honor Flight trip, people would approach the elderly former soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, most of whom were in their 90's, and thank them for their service.  

 

Those interested in the Honor Flight program to take elderly veterans on a visit to Washington, DC should visit honorflightnewengland.org. You may also volunteer to be a guardian for a veteran on an upcoming trip.

By Mike McBride


Have you heard about the two friends who each had the same lunch of soup, sandwich, beverage and dessert at a popular local restaurant? They planned to split the $35 bill at $17.50 each, but the server said that management had decided that the wealthier of the two should pay $20 and the other $15.

    You’re saying this story can’t be true, but something very similar has really been going on with the Dighton-Rehoboth school budget since 2015 − with many more dollars involved. 

    In the late 1950’s, Dighton and Rehoboth wisely collaborated to build a regional high school, thereby realizing the mutual economic and educational benefits of shared instructional programs, staff and facilities for the students and taxpayers of the two communities. With everything under one roof and almost all operating costs held in common, the 1958 Dighton-Rehoboth Regional Agreement stated that the high school operating costs for each town were to be determined and apportioned based on its ratio of students to the total number of students. Costs and payment of costs were directly tied to student headcount − if you had 40% of the total number of students, you were liable for 40% of the total operating cost. The two towns each paid for what they used to educate their students.

    The 1987 amended agreement, which regionalized grades K-8 in addition to the high school, maintained the same student ratio method for apportioning operating costs at the high school, but stated that the share of operating costs for K-8 would be apportioned on the basis of actual budgeted operating costs for each member town. The two towns each continued to pay for what they used to educate their students.

    The 1993 Mass. Education Reform Act established goals and standards for the public education system along with a “foundation” level of spending for each school district to meet the goals and standards. To fund the foundation amount, each town is expected to spend a state-determined minimum contribution (based on ability to pay), with the state providing the difference via Chapter 70 aid. (Katherine Dennen Cooper’s explanation of the School Funding Process, January 2015 Rehoboth Reporter, pp 76-77)

    In 2007, the Massachusetts Board of Education (BoE) approved revised regulations governing REGIONAL school district budgets. These new requirements affected how ONLY towns in REGIONAL districts assessed their budgets.

    The new 2007 rules now allowed two ways for regional districts to calculate their budget assessments.

    One way is called the Statutory Method. The Statutory Method’s formula dictates subtracting the combined total of each town’s specific state-assigned required minimum contribution amount and total district revenues (such as state Chapter 70 and transportation reimbursement, among others) from the total district operating cost. Any remainder is apportioned per the district’s regional agreement.




The Statutory Method thus allows some towns in regional districts to avoid paying for what they use to educate their students, necessarily requiring other towns in the district to pay the difference.  This is because the Statutory Method assessment calculation formula requires that each town combine their state-assigned minimum contributions, which can obscure a wealthier town’s inequitable share of the regional district’s required total minimum contribution. Furthermore, the BoE stipulates that any above minimum amount cannot be divided such that a town would lose the “benefit” it receives for being a “less wealthy community.” (From Regional Agreement Amendment Cmte. consultant Mac Reid’s 6-17-2015 letter summarizing his conversation with DESE’s Christine Lynch.)

    For Dighton-Rehoboth (which strives for district-wide parity) using the Statutory Method means that, using D-R business office data, for fiscal year 2018 it costs Rehoboth $9,950 to educate each of its students, while Dighton spends $5,798 for each of theirs − a difference of $4,152 PER STUDENT.













    The difference in the two methods for 2018 is a swing of $2,965,511.

    The illustration shows that, based on total district operating cost and student enrollment, Dighton needs a minimum of $10,856,675 to pay for its students’ education; however, by using the Statutory Method, it contributes only $7,891,164. By rule, because it is in a REGIONAL district, Rehoboth must pay Dighton’s $2,965,511 shortfall. Therefore, using the Statutory Method forces Rehoboth to subsidize the cost of Dighton’s students’ education.

    The other way is called an Alternative Method, which permits more flexibility in allocating assessments. Using an Alternative Assessment (see illustration) allows assessment based on the ACTUAL COSTS spent by each town to educate its students, and in fact had been used until 2014 by the D-R regional district since its beginning over fifty years ago. Many regional districts currently use an Alternative Method.

    So, why not use an Alternative Method?  In the example, each town most importantly pays for what it uses − its students − but remarkably the rules prohibit using an Alternative Method if ONLY ONE TOWN in a regional district objects to it − necessitating using the Statutory Method by default.  The other regional district member towns have no other choice in the matter.

    The state’s bias toward using the Statutory Method shifts our focus from the number of students in each community to the wealth of each community, and steers regional districts toward using the Statutory Method by making it financially attractive and easier for less wealthy towns to choose it rather than an Alternative Method.

     Implementation of the Statutory Method for the D-R regional district began in 2015. That year, the difference between the statutory and the alternative calculation methods (as in the illustration) was over $925,000. Each year since then, the gap has trended higher, and through 2018 now cumulatively totals over $6.25 million.

    We are frequently reminded that we are one district. Now, if we are truly one district, and about 47% of our student population resides in Dighton, then it is the responsibility of the Dighton taxpayers to pay for an education for that 47% --- not just 32%.





 








    Notice that instead of each town paying for what they use, as Dighton’s enrollment steadily increases, their payment share steadily decreases. As Rehoboth’s enrollment decreases, their payment share increases!

    Rehoboth taxpayers have to provide for enough students of their own, without having to take on the extra burden of providing for some of Dighton’s students.

    Obviously, whatever Dighton doesn’t have to pay to educate students who reside in their town, can help provide for its other town expenses, such as police, fire and highway, because Rehoboth is paying part of its school cost share for them. Accordingly, when Rehoboth pays part of Dighton’s school costs, it deprives Rehoboth of capital that could help support its own equally important expenses, such as the need for improvements to both D.L. Beckwith and Palmer River Schools or a new municipal building.

Using an Alternative Assessment Method could help correct this imbalance.

     In short, while we must accept that the 1993 Education Reform Act requires Rehoboth to assume more of its foundation budget portion due to its more “wealthy” status, Ed. Reform and subsequent regulations do not require that Rehoboth un-necessarily support any of Dighton’s school financial commitments, which can happen when using the Statutory Method.

    There are many reasons to regionalize, but cost reduction and savings are perhaps its principal incentives. These were major factors leading to construction of our high school almost sixty years ago. In 1987, the towns regionalized K-8 partly to benefit from a transportation reimbursement offered by the state.  Unfortunately, employing the Statutory Method is inconsistent with the promotion of economic fair play, because using the Statutory Method can force a “wealthier” town to assume a disproportional financial responsibility for the educational expenses of a regional district. This is a burden with which a non-regionalized town does not have to contend, and discourages, rather than enhances, a regional relationship.

    It is highly doubtful that Rehoboth would have signed the original 1958 regional agreement under the payment terms of the Statutory Method.

    We must remember that the state does not mandate that we must use only the Statutory Method. It also allows for the use of an Alternative Assessment Method. The Statutory Method’s design can result in a financial gain for a less wealthy town and a loss for a wealthier town in a regional district. But the wealth of a community can change over time. By using an alternative method, we could consistently apportion costs according to student enrollment, thus ensuring equitable assessments no matter how each town’s wealth or student enrollment changed. Neither town would profit at the expense of the other.  Each town would just pay its own fair share.

 

By Kathleen Dennen Cooper


As Chair of the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School Committee, speaking on behalf of myself, I would like to respond to some comments and misconceptions that were printed in the September issue of The Rehoboth Reporter. 

    There seems to be a general misunderstanding about how assessments are performed, not only in our regional district, but as well as in regional districts across the state.  I would also like to applaud the efforts of Michael McBride and of Selectwoman Pimental – the school committee always welcomes input and strives to solve problems creatively and collaboratively.  However, some of the statements written were not completely accurate, so I will attempt to respond to some of the misconceptions. 

    Both articles suggest that alternative assessments which would benefit the town of Rehoboth are routinely used in our State.  Mr. McBride states that “many regional districts currently use an Alternative Method” wherein “each town most importantly pays for only what it uses – its students”.   Ms. Pimental states, “every regional school district follows an alternative method.”  Currently in Massachusetts, of the 84 regional school districts that exist, 19 reported that they used an alternative assessment in the previous year according to the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).  

     Furthermore, according to the Assistant Director of the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools (MARS), many schools who use an alternative assessment are actually using an optional approach to the Statutory Assessment, and are reporting it as “alternative”.  More importantly, it does not necessarily effect the way that Chapter 70 (Ch70) state monies are divided among towns in the large majority of cases.  Historically, when alternative assessments are used, they are typically done as a temporary agreement during a transition period in the formation of a new regional district.  They are not set up to be the yearly modus operandi of a regional school district.

    Both Mr. McBride and Ms. Pimental talked about the wealth formula that the state employs in order to determine state aid to towns and school districts.  Ms. Pimental says, that “Rehoboth is considered a “wealthy” town for the purposes of calculating Ch70 money”.  That is correct, the state uses a wealth formula to provide state aid to towns and school district.

    This calculation is based upon a towns property value and personal income. In the case of Rehoboth, the Equalized Property Value is $1.76 Billion dollars. The Equalized Property Value of Dighton is $893 Million dollars, or about half of Rehoboth. Accordingly, Rehoboth would receive about half as much state aid as compared to Dighton if apportioned by this one measure.  Whether or not you personally consider Rehoboth to be “wealthy,” the town has a higher property value than Dighton by a significant measure.

    Hypothetically, if Rehoboth de-regionalized tomorrow, was free from Dighton, and Rehoboth schools were organized as a single municipal district, the following would immediately occur:


1.   The “unfair” wealth formula would still be in effect.  The taxpayers of this town would still receive the same state aid, or less, provided currently.  Additionally, they would still be responsible for paying the same minimum required contribution for our students.


2.  The Dighton-Rehoboth School District would lose nearly a million dollars of regional transportation aid if Rehoboth and Dighton were separated. 


3.  A duplicate central office would also be required, and possibly a High School.  Given the challenges that have been faced with the town hall and municipal complex, this may not be easy to accomplish.


    Needless to say, it costs more to be de-regionalized than to have a regional school district.  The list above is only partial.  Should we attempt to decrease school spending to the state minimum, the cuts would be dramatic to the General Education budget.  The Special Education budget would remain unaltered.

     One way to examine if the argument, that “Rehoboth is unfairly subsidizing students from Dighton,” has any validity is to look at where the money from the budget is actually being spent by each budget category.


Table 1: General Education Budget Allocations by Category for Dighton and Rehoboth

    Rehoboth pays for the actual costs of its K-8 students, its respective percentage of high school students, vocational students, and Central Office/District expenses.  Additionally, the Special Education costs are listed below.



Table 2:  Special Education Budget Allocations for Dighton and Rehoboth
    Rehoboth and Dighton each pay their actual costs for K-8 special education and a proportional amount for High School Students, Central Office and District expenses.

   The table below illustrates how the total school budget is arrived at and where the monies come from for the towns respective contributions.  The foundation budget is the total amount of money the state requires you to put into your education system including chapter 70 funds. The minimum town contribution is calculated based on the wealth formula discussed previously, and the above minimum contribution is an additional amount that is approved at town meeting.


Table 3: Allocation of the amounts “paid” per town versus the amounts “spent” in each town

The minimum required local contribution from Rehoboth, by the state, is $12,305,216, which is about twice of which is required from Dighton, $5,826,956.  This comes from the wealth formula previously discussed, and arises from the fact that Rehoboth land value is estimated at twice that of Dighton.  Again, it is critical to realize that this number would not change should we not have anything to do with Dighton.  It is the amount the state requires the town of Rehoboth to spend based on our land valuation and personal income.

    As a town, our foundation budget requires that we must spend, at minimum, a total of $16.65 million on education.  We pay $12.31 million in taxes, and appropriate an additional $2.64 million locally.  We spend $14.94 million in local tax money, and our total costs for our students is $22.48 million.  Dighton, on the other hand, spends $7.89 million in local taxes, and the total cost for their students is $17.50 million.  The difference between what is paid to the district through local taxes and that which is spent is made up by Chapter 70 funds and other revenues. 

    The fairness of this I suppose is subjective, although some things aren’t subjective:  the average house price in Rehoboth is higher than the average house price in Dighton.  Median salaries are higher in Rehoboth than in Dighton.  Additionally, Rehoboth has 17 millionaires reported and Dighton has zero.  We live in a very nice town, which means people want to live here, prices go up, and value goes up.  The State isn’t doing anything unfair in their valuation – it’s merely economics.  Furthermore, whether or not Dighton is in the picture – we are subject to that wealth factor.   It, unfortunately, won’t be decreased even if it is disliked.

    Before closing, let’s reverse the situation and think about the agreement from Dighton’s side.  Hypothetically, if we were to approach them with an alternative assessment asking them to pay more, they would have to collectively vote as a town to volunteer to raise the portion they pay to the schools.  It is difficult to expect a group to vote to voluntarily pay more than they are required to pay.  

    I would be more than happy to discuss this further with Mr. McBride and Ms. Pimental. I would hope that looking at the numbers together we can come to a more joint conclusion.  I would also urge you to please reach out to the State level, if you feel strongly that the state aid apportionment method needs improvement. The Foundation Budget Formula has been brought up repeatedly at State functions we have attended and is in the process of being reformed. In fact, out of the 7 Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) Resolutions being voted on 11/01/17 at the MASC Delegate meeting, two specifically are the, “Foundation Budget” and, “Litigation for Fair School Finance”. 
   I think that is where the root cause can be looked at and addressed.  At the local level, the Regional Amendment Task Force Subcommittee just agreed to all the changes in the final Regional Agreement Draft.  It will be sent to the full School Committee, and we will be seeking public input and comments on this proposed draft.   



 

GUEST OPINION ESSAYS ON THE DIGHTON-REHOBOTH REGIONAL SCHOOL BUDGET October 3, 2017